Escudero warns public about broadening definition of ‘terrorists’
MANILA, Philippines — While not opposing the terror tag against Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves and 12 others, Senator Chiz Escudero on Thursday told the public to be vigilant of the broadening definition of “terrorists.”
According to Escudero, he views the ATC’s resolution, labeling Teves and 12 others (including his brother, former Negros Oriental Gov. Pryde Henry Teves) as terrorists as a significant declaration as it marks the first time the definition of terrorist groups has been expanded.
This came after Teves and others in the ATC list were allegedly involved in a “terrorist group” responsible for the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo and other political killings.
“Significant itong declaration ng ATC, dahil sa kauna unahang pagkakataon, binuksan nila ‘yung definition, pinalawak nila ‘yung definition ng terroristang grupo, na madalas sa ordinaryong pagiisip, iisipin natin ay, Maute Group, Isis, BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), etc,” said Escudero during a Kapihan sa Senate conference
(This declaration by the ATC is significant because, for the first time, they opened the definition, they expanded the definition of a terrorist group, which often, in the ordinary mind, we think of as Maute Group, Isis, BIFF, etc.)
When asked if the public should be concerned about the broadening definition, Escudero responded: “No, not really,” but warned that the public should still be vigilant of it.
“All I’m saying is it is being expanded to mean that. And it’s broader than our usual concept of a terrorist group,” said Escudero.
“Hindi ko kinokontra, hindi ko inooppose, hindi ko kinukwestiyon, sinasabi ko lang dapat gising tayo na lumalawak iyong depinisyon. We will see [what will happen] in the next couple of months or years,” he added.
(I’m not contradicting it, I’m not opposing, I’m not questioning it, I’m just saying we should be aware that the definition is expanding. We will see what will happen in the next couple of months or years.)
Escudero alluded to what is happening in US politics or concerns over government agencies, specifically, the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, being weaponized against other political sides.
He explained that even though Teves’ circumstance does not apply in this scenario, there is always a chance for the government to weaponize its agencies and stifle political opposition.
“I don’t think that’s present in this particular situation, but that gives us enough reason to be vigilant about it, to be aware about it. And as I said earlier, just be aware na lumalawak ang definition (that the definition is being expanded),” he continued.
“Hindi ko sinasabing mali ang implementation at interpretation na ito, pero lumalawak siya,” he added.
According to Escudero, he understands the ATC’s grounds for tagging Teves as a terrorist as his group allegedly sowed fear in a segment of the population resulting in some officials being unable to perform their duties.
Escudero, however, underscored that these are mere allegations.
“Ang problema ay alegasyon pa lang ‘yon, deklarasyon pa lang ito. Ang deklarasyon hindi automatic na pwedeng gawing basihan para arestuhin siya. Kailangan muna kasuhan,” he said.
(The problem is that it’s just an allegation; it’s just a declaration. The declaration cannot automatically be used as a basis to arrest him. Must be sued first.)
The senator also wondered if such a group truly exists or if the ATC merely classified it as such.
The Department of Justice previously clarified that even with a “terrorist” tag, Teves is still not classified as a fugitive, sans a warrant of arrest.
However, the terrorist tag had given way for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to freeze Teves assets and of those of the 12 other people tagged as terrorists.
The DOJ also refused to outline its next moves against Teves, following his designation as a terrorist. — With reports from Ivana Romero, INQUIRER.net trainee
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